The NRL says it will reduce five-day turnarounds for teams by 30 per cent in 2017 but it has attracted criticism for not doing it sooner.
NRL head of football Todd Greenberg defended the 2016 NRL draw upon its release on Friday with it containing the same number of five-day turnarounds as the 2015 schedule.
Greenberg said the NRL had done well to limit the number of short turnarounds with the introduction of 18 Thursday night fixtures which would stretch the round across five days for most of the season.
Five-day turnarounds are a sore point for the players, coaches and the players’ union who say it contributes to burnout and takes a hefty toll.
Monday night football will be scrapped in 2017 and Greenberg said players would have to back up from short breaks less in future years.
“We’ve been in constant contact with (Rugby League Players Association president) Clint Newton as well as with the senior players across all our clubs. And it’s very clear player welfare is a fundamental priority,” Greenberg said.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy this season branded his side’s scheduling “a joke” after enduring consecutive five-day turnarounds.
The Storm have been scheduled for two short turnarounds in 2016, down from three this year.
ARL commission chairman John Grant said it was working towards a more equitable draw and was sensitive of player welfare.
“In setting up the draw in 2016 in what is a transition year our objective is to not have any more five-day turnarounds than what there is in this current year,” Grant said.
“In 2017 we’re targeting a reduction of 30-plus per cent in the number of five-day turnarounds.”
However the RLPA said the NRL was not doing enough to address the issue with Newton telling Fairfax that he was disappointed that there had not been a reduction for 2016.